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Black Sea gas strengthens Turkey’s hand in geopolitics | Turkey



On Friday, August 21, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that a sizeable natural gas field had been found off the Turkish Black Sea coast. The discovery of some 320 billion cubic metres (bcm) reserve is being hailed as a game-changer. “It is only the beginning,” presidential adviser and spokesman Ibrahim Kalin remarked. “We are very hopeful that it would lead to other fields in the same area.”

Such an enthusiastic response is understandable. Today, Turkey consumes large amounts of natural gas. Rapid economic growth over the past decades has seen a demand surge from a meagre 0.5bcm in 1987 to 53.5bcm in 2017, most of which is imported.

Historically, Turkey’s biggest gas supplier has been Russia, accounting for more than half of the volume entering the country, followed by Iran, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Qatar and others. In the first half of this year, however, Russian and Iranian gas imports slumped by more than 40 percent, with Azerbaijan emerging as the biggest exporter to the Turkish market, supplying almost a quarter of all gas imports. In the same period, imports of liquified natural gas (LNG) grew by almost 45 percent, with Algeria and Qatar claiming about half of those imports.

Indigenous production promises to reduce dependence on external suppliers and possibly lay the groundwork for exports to lucrative markets in the EU. Beyond reducing Turkey’s chronic trade deficit fuelled by a large oil and gas bill, Black Sea hydrocarbons may boost its political leverage, too. 

What also matters, of course, is the timing of the discovery in the Tuna-1 zone, about 100 nautical miles north of the Turkish coast in the western Black Sea. Erdogan’s announcement comes at a time when Turkey is locked in a dispute over maritime boundaries and access to offshore hydrocarbon deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

The agreement signed with the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya for the delimitation of the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) has led to pushback by Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, and lately, France. Tensions are rising after Greek and Turkish ships collided earlier in August. 

And this week, the airforces of Greece and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are holding their first-ever joint drill south of the island of Crete. It follows earlier Turkish wargames. While both Ankara and Athens would prefer to avoid dangerous escalation and eventually come back to the negotiating table, neither wants to blink first. 

But should Erdogan choose to dial down pressure by freezing exploratory activities in the disputed waters around Cyprus or off the Greek island of Kastellorizo, the new discovery would provide the means to divert domestic attention. Unlike the Eastern Mediterranean, territorial waters and EEZs in the Black Sea are generally not contested (aside from Crimea, of course, after the Russian annexation in 2014).

Right now, the chances for such a shift are slim. Cross-party support for Turkey’s muscular posture vis-a-vis Greece and its allies runs strong. More assertive diplomacy appears to be paying off, whether in Syria, Libya or in the Eastern Mediterranean. Last but not least, Turkish policymakers do not see a linkage between the two issues. But keeping all options on the table, including de-escalation and diversion, would be a prudent choice for Ankara. 

The gas discovery is also seen in Turkey as a piece of positive news at a moment when the Turkish economy is struggling. After a bounceback in 2019, it has taken a huge hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The IMF and World Bank expect the gross domestic product (GDP) to shrink by 3.8-5 percent this year, for the first time since 2009. The Turkish lira has lost a fifth of its value vis-a-vis the dollar since January.

There will be a modest recovery in 2021, but the golden days when the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) was winning support on the back of robust growth and improvement of living standards and welfare provision are gone.

Black Sea gas is not the silver bullet to rescue Turkey. Though authorities are vowing that production will kick off as early as 2023, the centennial of the Republic, tapping into offshore deposits is technically challenging and costly. With hydrocarbon prices low, recouping investment might prove difficult. 

Demand on the Turkish domestic market is in decline over the past two years and indigenously sourced volumes will face competition from importers, including cheap liquefied natural gas (LNG). The same applies to putative gas recovered from the Eastern Mediterranean in case a settlement is reached. It might well turn out to be too expensive to sell. In other words, there is no energy bonanza just around the corner. 

Still, the Black Sea find does make a difference. In the coming five years, Turkey will be renegotiating its long-term contracts with major suppliers. The list includes deals signed with Gazprom for the so-called Western route, currently served by the TurkStream pipeline, as well as for Blue Stream. 

The Turkish state-owned utility BOTAS will have extra leverage in extracting better terms on issues such as the pricing formula or indeed the take-or-pay clause obliging it, as it stands now, to absorb 80 percent of the contracted volumes. Gazprom’s market share has been contracting rapidly over the past two years. 

Yet Ankara will be driving a hard bargain with the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) one of whose contracts is expiring in 2021. Qatargas, on the other hand, is likely to be afforded preferential treatment in upcoming negotiations, courtesy of the close diplomatic and military alliance between Ankara and Doha.

In sum, Turkey will gain flexibility and increase its say over external energy relations. Domestic production of gas can recast strategic relations with Russia. Diversifying energy supplies away from Gazprom does strengthen Turkey’s hand and allows it to compete against Russia where their interests diverge, but it will not usher in a major turnaround.

Ankara and Moscow still need each other on a host of issues, from Syria, to Libya, to Black Sea security. Moving closer to its goal to achieve energy independence, Turkey will continue to balance between Russia and the West in pursuit of status and influence. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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